Tips From Gen Z On How To Stop Being Cheugy

Peyton Verhoeven, co-founder of Think Gen Z

Marketers have spent the last decade and a half obsessing over how to reach millennials (many of whom are in their late thirties at this point, God help us).

Now, brands are turning their attention to Gen Z… and some are a little confused about how to relate to it.

Generation Z, which includes teenagers and young 20-somethings, has a reputation for being media-savvy, elusive, vocal, plugged-in, always online, highly skeptical, self-expressive, politically active, advertising-shy, and financially frugal because many grew up during the recession 2008 and also generally uninterested in gimmicks with an aversion to pigeonholes.

Which sounds kind of scary and impossible to market to Gen Z.

The cure for frizz

But if brands want to understand Gen Z, all they really have to do is ask, says Peyton Verhoeven, the 17-year-old co-founder of Think Gen Z, a Toronto-based consulting firm she founded in 2018 at the age of 13 with her older sister, Ella , now 20, to help brands stop their attempts to communicate with Zoomers.

(In fact, please never refer to Gen Z members as “Zoomers”, thanks.)

The Verhoeven sisters decided to start Think Gen Z, the first consulting firm focused on Gen Z in Canada, after seeing too many ads that fell short.

“Brands tried to get in touch with us, but we realized that they just didn’t speak our language,” Verhoeven said. “The humor could be kind of… spasmodic, so we decided to do something about it.”

cartoons: "How are you with your fellow children?"Think Gen Z (or “Zed” as Verhoeven puts it as a Canadian) offers a mix of advisory services and consumer insights. Advertisers can book Peyton and her sister to evaluate their brand through a Gen Z lens or just answer questions about what the heck Gen Z is doing.

Brands can also tap into a network of more than 400 Gen Zers across Canada’s provinces to gather insights through online surveys, conduct virtual focus groups, or get feedback on a new product or marketing campaign.

When a brand needs a quick opinion on something, Think Gen Z can text the network for real-time responses.

“Brands need to listen to us because we’re a growing consumer base,” Verhoeven said. “And not only do we have our own purchasing power, we also influence our family’s spending.”

Nearly 90% of parents involve their Gen Z children in purchasing decisions.

Got in the mind of Gen Zed

Think Gen Z has worked with CPG brands, skin care companies, shopping malls and has worked with many different agencies.

But one of the first questions Verhoeven asks independently of the client is, “What can we actually do to resonate with your generation?”

While the answer may vary by brand, there is some wisdom that applies across the board.

For example, when it doesn’t work, it’s better to do something bold and learn from the mistake than to hold back excessively for fear of making a mistake, Verhoeven said.

“Even if you fail, we will see that effort was made,” she said. “Then it can be kind of an iterative process so the brand can improve next time.”

TikTok is a good example. Many brands use humor on TikTok to connect with Gen Z. It doesn’t always land, but “sometimes it can be really fun and engaging,” Verhoeven said, “and Gen Zed loves interacting with brands on social media.” ”

Generation Z
This stock art makes no sense. Why would anyone write “Generation Z” in graffiti on a wall? However …

Gen Z cheat sheet

What else does Gen Z love? Verhoeven spilled the tea.

Subject: The best place to reach a Gen Z audience: “TikTok is dominant. But Instagram is still very important. Many of us scroll to it every day. Snapchat is losing popularity with our generation. Another big one is BeReal, where you get a notification at different times every day and need to take a picture of yourself at that exact time, whatever you’re doing. It’s not superficial, it’s unedited and it really reflects our appreciation for authenticity.”

Subject: Where Gen Z gets their messages from: “Many of us turn to Instagram and TikTok for updates for a quick headline here and there. Another possibility is Apple News notifications that pop up on our phones throughout the day. I have to say, though, that not too many of us flip through and read the news on a regular basis. But those who do are extremely passionate about issues of social injustice.”

Subject: Whether brands should have an opinion on political or social issues: “It depends on what a brand supports, but I believe everything it stands for should align with what it offers as a brand. Brands shouldn’t force themselves into things like abortion or gun control or whatever the issue may be just because they think Gen Zed cares.”

Re: Advertisement: “It really depends on the Gen Zed. We have to be careful about the media we consume. We always ask ourselves, is it real, is it clickbait, is it relevant to us, does it align with our values? Personally, I don’t have a problem with ads, but they can be annoying at times. Sometimes it feels like we’re being bombarded and every time you go to a social media platform, more and more ads are showing up there.”

Re: Privacy on the Internet: “That’s pretty important, but we’re also digital natives. We grew up with iPads in our hands, so we’re not concerned online. We accept cookies more than my parents’ generation, for example. If they’re looking for something and then about a second later they see an ad for that thing, they get angry.”

Subject: the “value exchange:” “I don’t know that term. But because we grew up during the recession, we saw our parents struggle, and that’s why we’re frugal and we love bonuses, promotions, and discounts. We would willingly share information about ourselves to get free stuff – but it has to have actual value. The value of what we get for it must be pretty good if you want to get our information.

“But sometimes I feel like there’s a lack of trust between brands and our generation.”

(As for the headline: “Cheugy” means outdated or trying too hard, by the way. In case you haven’t already researched it.)

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